Text: Claire Lessiau
Photographs: Claire Lessiau & Marcella van Alphen
From the desolated Lapland where admiring the ruska (the fall foliage) in the fall, picking berries in the summer, or watching the northern lights in the winter are all magic experiences, to the traditional Finnish saunas all over and more specifically in the Kuusamo region close to Russia, via the stunning lakes of the Koli National Park, or the off-the-beaten path and hip Helsinki, Finland has much more to offer than simply forests and lakes!
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How to enjoy the Northern Lights
If the city of Tromsø in northern Norway is reputed as a gateway to the Arctic and one of the best spots to see the Northern Lights, the low light pollution of the sparsely populated region of Lapland in Finland is a true hidden gem for it!
The aurora borealis are visible an average of 200 nights a year from early September to late March in the country of Santa… Accommodation have adapted in order to allow you to watch the whimsical aurora borealis while sheltered from the ice-cold arctic winds…
The aurora cabins
Made of wood with large windows, the aurora cabins are precisely designed to observe the northern lights. They can be found all over northern Finland.
At Holiday Village Inari in the homonym town, a half-conic glass roof above the bed is an invitation to enjoy the nice interior and cosy of the cabin while staring at the sky through.
The concept is similar with a different architecture at the Iisakki Village, close to the Russian border: two walls and the ceiling of the cabin are mad of glass to allow unobstructed views.
In both cases, the bonus is that when the northern lights are spotted from inside the cabin, they can also be observed from the bank of the nearby lake, that in both cases is only a few meters away.
If you are lucky enough to visit in the fall, you may be rewarded by the reflections of the northern lights on the still water surface: magic!
This traditional housing has a ton of charm and character and is actually perfectly aligned with the sustainable circular economy! The Finnish taiga with its dense and coniferous pine forests offers what seems to be a limitless amount of renewable timber to build these log-houses. Very adjustable, the buildings can easily be extended with additional rooms, or dismantled and moved. Damaged logs can simply be replaced, and the discontinued wooden parts pause no waste issues at all, contrary to many new building materials that are not easy recycled.
At a time when half of the natural resources consumed by mankind and a third of greenhouse gas emissions are used for or generated by buildings, staying in a log-house also becomes a green endeavour!
At the Wilderness Hotel Muotka, the large self-catering chalets also possess a wall of glass to enjoy the northern lights above the surrounding forest from the comfort of the luxurious log-house with its own sauna.
The wilderness huts
Deeply anchored in the Finnish culture, wilderness huts (autiotupa) of different comfort levels – from very basic to basic – are scattered all over the country to allow hikers, canoers and skiers to find shelter when fully immersed in the wild.
Do not expect window panes to enjoy the Northern Lights, but instead fairly dark wooden cabins, maintained by the Finnish Forest and Park service, in which staying warm thanks to the provided firewood is the first priority. Often by a lake, sometimes with a sauna, always with an axe and saw to chop your own wood, as the rule is to leave as much wood as upon arrival, these wilderness huts are free to use and run on a first come, first served basis. Finns often stop for a few hours to break a hike or when they are gathering berries, or even for a night: far from any light pollution, they are good basis to observe the aurora borealis as you will spend the night feeding the fire anyway! Here is a comprehensive map with all the wilderness huts and other forms of shelters, should you feel the need to completely get back to very basics.
The space being slightly more limited in cities, other concepts can be found in hotels. If many do not have a specific set up, but a wake-up call from the front desk in case of northern lights, some such as the Nova Skyland Hotel in Santa’s Village in Rovaniemi are designed in such a way that the aurora borealis cannot be missed. At the modern and sleek Nova Skyland, the bed faces a glass wall to provide an intimate experience of the northern lights. As after all, the wake-up call is a bit of cheating!
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